How similar are semantic categories in closely related languages? A comparison of cutting and breaking in four Germanic languages

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Are the semantic categories of very closely related languages the same? We present a new methodology for addressing this question. Speakers of English, German, Dutch and Swedish described a set of video clips depicting cutting and breaking events. The verbs elicited were then subjected to cluster analysis, which groups scenes together based on similarity (determined by shared verbs). Using this technique, we find that there are surprising differences among the languages in the number of categories, their exact boundaries, and the relationship of the terms to one another[--]all of which is circumscribed by a common semantic space.


External organisations
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
  • University of Amsterdam
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • categorization, verb semantics, Swedish, Dutch, German, English, Germanic languages, cut and break, separation events, cluster analysis, semantic map
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-194
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)

Total downloads

No data available